One week before the start of the G1, New Japan made what’s becoming a traditional trip to the US for their G1 Special… and it’s a newsworthy one!
We’re inside the Cow Palace, with Jim Ross and Josh Barnett on commentary, but we start with a nice, lengthy video package to bring everyone up to speed if you’d watched zero New Japan since last year’s G1 Special.
Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH), Rocky Romero, Gedo & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & King Haku)
We opened with YOSHI-HASHI against Haku, and you can probably guess which of the two the crowd were more into. YOSHI’s early clotheslines barely registered as a dropkick took down Haku… and got him some boos before two of Haku’s comes came in and helped knock YOSHI into the corner.
Tags took us to Tanga Loa and Rocky Romero, with Rocky scoring some headscissors and Forever Lariats, before he’s charged into the corner as Bullet Club took over with some nice father and son bonding, aided with a Haku piledriver to Rocky… who I think got chants of “he’s so little” from the crowd. Ouch.
Chase Owens is in with a backbreaker, while Yujiro’s flash legdrop nearly puts away Rocky as I realise we’ve got about half of the CHAOS team who’s let to tag in. Eventually Rocky makes a comeback and tags in YOH who’s all about them Dragon screws… SHO’s in to double-team Yujiro in the corner, but Yujiro escapes a suplex and lands a DDT as we go to Tama Tonga and SHO. You can guess who had little luck there.
SHO manages to get a spear to give himself some freedom to tag in Gedo… but Gedo has to deal with both of the Guerrillas of Destiny for a while. It sparks a brief Parade of Moves, culminating in Rocky nailing Tanga Loa with a tope, before Haku busted out a Tongan Death Grip to Gedo, eventually handing over the “RainTaker” to Tama Tonga’s Gun Stun for the win. This was fine, but not something I’d want to watch again… typical Korakuen undercard tag. **¼
They’ve learned their lesson – they’re showing the arena “during the break” but without any audio. Live mics during commercials weren’t a good idea in past shows…
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Hey, what do you know? The Suzuki theme that debuted at the Strong Style Evolved UK shows really is being kept! Neither man came out with their Rev Pro title belts, but were acknowledged as being their champions…
Suzuki and Ishii picked up where they left off last week in Manchester, going right to the elbows before tagging out so they could fight on the floor. Toru Yano’s all about his shtick, staying by the ropes to avoid Sabre, before raking Zack’s eyes to escape him. It’s all comedy… and Zack’s had enough as he pulled him out of the ropes, before getting yanked down by the hair. Ishii tries to break up something but gets sent to the outside as Suzuki throws him into the guard railings… meanwhile Sabre ties up Yano in knots with a nice bridging Indian Deathlock before releasing and going to a Keylock. There’s double-teaming of submissions on Yano as Sabre and Suzuki go after all of his limbs, but eventually Yano gets a shot in with an atomic drop before tagging in Ishii… so he could go after Suzuki in the ring.
A clothesline dumps Suzuki in the corner, but they go back to the elbow shots, which just about produce that satisfying audio on TV. Suzuki rares up and fires back with slaps before locking in a rear naked choke… Ishii escaped and hits a back suplex before Yano comes back in. Off comes the turnbuckle pad, which Yano tries to strike Sabre with… it fails as he’s trapped in an Octopus stretch, with Suzuki using said padding on Yano, which had to be more embarrassing than painful.
Yano recovers by trying to go for a low blow, but Sabre blocks it and turned into a Euro clutch for a near-fall, before running into the exposed corner. Another low blow’s blocked, but Ishii rushes in to clothesline Sabre as Yano rolled him up for the pin! That’s such an auspicious defeat for Sabre this close to the G1, I have to wonder… but this was another decent undercard tag that didn’t threaten to come close to that next level. ***
Post-match, Suzuki chairs Shota Umino in the aisle… as JR tells us “it’s going to get better.” DON’T SAY THAT!
Bullet Club (Marty Scurll & Hangman Page) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA
No, I don’t know why Ryusuke Taguchi was there either…
Scurll and KUSHIDA started with some really fluid exchanges, leading to a brief Octopus from Scurll before a series of headscissors led to a stalemate and some tags out. In come Page and Tanahashi, and we’re quickly in with hair-pulling to take Page into the corner as the Ace hits a springboard crossbody out of it.
KUSHIDA’s taken outside as Page rebounds with a shooting star headbutt, before the Bullet Club pair turned their sights on Taguchi, throwing him back inside as he… whiffs a hip attack. Standard. The double-teams continue to KUSHIDA, who improvises and comes back with a step-up dropkick off of Scurll before getting the tag out to Tanahashi, who cleared houses with elbows and dropkicks. Marty takes a Dragon screw, then a flip senton off the middle rope as Tanahashi was warming up the air guitar, but his Slingblade’s blocked and met with a chicken wing. Tanahashi escapes, but the ring fills up, giving him chances to drop Page with a Slingblade before falling for the Just Kidding superkick… KUSHIDA escapes the finger snap as the production crew misses it all, returning just in time for him to float over into a Hoverboard Lock on Scurll.
Hangman Page drags himself outside to avoid a Cloverleaf from Tanahashi – and the comeback starts there as he slingshots into a lariat on KUSHIDA, before rolling over KUSHIDA to try the Rites of Passage. It’s turned into a sunset flip for a near-fall, before KUSHIDA tries for another floating Hoverboard Lock… that’s turned into the Rites of Passage for the win. This was decent enough, and a rather surprise victor as Page goes into the G1 with a bit of momentum. ***
NEVER Openweight Championship: Jeff Cobb vs. Hirooki Goto (c)
Cobb came out wearing gold… so he probably wouldn’t mind if he only left with that belt, eh?
They started with Cobb taking Goto into the ropes from a tie-up, before Goto reversed it and snuck in a few cheapshots. Cobb replies with a clothesline as we were looking at a slow and deliberate start to proceedings, before a whip into the corner led to Goto wandering out into an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Eventually Goto suckers in Cobb, low bridging him to the outside before meeting him out there with a plancha, which led to the turnaround as Goto brings Cobb back in for a snapmare and some elbow drops that the crowd didn’t like.
Another snapmare trapped Cobb in a rear chinlock, but he blocks an elbow and hits back with a dropkick before the Cobb resurgence led to a spinning back suplex that gets him a near-fall. A running Muscle Buster-like slam keeps Goto down, but a standing moonsault misses as both men were forced to reset somewhat. It’s Goto who strikes first with a spinning heel kick in the corner and another back suplex for a near-fall.
Cobb tried to get back into it with an Oklahoma Stampede for a near-fall, before finally landing the standing moonsault to almost win the match. The Tour of the Islands gets blocked as Goto switched out into a sleeper, but Cobb rolls out and ends up taking an ushigoroshi, rolling right by the ropes for a near-fall, before Cobb escaped a GTR. Instead, Goto comes in with a GYR and GTR, and that’s all folks. Another decent match, but shockingly lacking in heat as the crowd seemed to want a title change without cheering for Cobb. Not sure how that works… ***
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) (c)
We started with SANADA and Nick Jackson clearing the aprons as they wanted to go at it one-on-one, beginning with SANADA’s double leapfrog and an early Skull End attempt as everyone was swinging and missing en route to the Human Centipede of Headscissors… which Matt countered with a Sharpshooter to the lot of them.
Lots of double-teaming early as the Bucks effortlessly slipped into their usual deal, but SANADA puts the brakes on and traps Nick in a Paradise Lock before a low dropkick freed him. EVIL’s tagged in to hit a back senton for a near-fall, as he tried to keep Nick at bay with a surfboard stretch… forcing an escape and an attempted tag out from the Young Buck… only for SANADA to pull Matt off the apron at the last second.
Nick gets some retribution, pulling down SANADA before getting his tag… and it’s a relatively warm tag from Matt as he takes down the challengers with a double clothesline. We’ve a teased dive as Matt flips off the apron with a cutter to SANADA, who was just standing on the floor, before Matt returned to trap EVIL in a Sharpshooter… which ends quickly in the ropes as Matt’s chronic back pain seemed to return. I wonder if ROH are still advertising supports that’d help? There’s more from the Bucks, as they stop a Skull End on the floor with a baseball slide dropkick before EVIL teases a dive… and SUPERKICK!
SANADA again backflips into a Skull End, only for Matt to escape and try one of his own as they flip between the move… with SANADA swinging his around before heading up top for a moonsault that misses. Matt swings and misses with a clothesline before taking SANADA onto the apron for a slingshot DDT, with Nick returning in with a 450 splash for a very near-fall. Another Sharpshooter follows from Matt, with Nick’s senton bomb adding to the pain as he then turned sights onto EVIL with a step-up senton to the outside. In the meantime, SANADA’s able to make it to the ropes, then get a tag out as EVIL went after the Bucks by himself, launching in with German suplexes before the Darkness Falls fireman’s carry powerbomb drew a near-fall.
The EVIL STO’s blocked with an elbow as Nick looks for a suplex… but the reversal takes him into a Magic Killer as Matt barely makes the save. Another spot of double-teaming led to an errant superkick as referee Kenta Sato took an almighty clattering… which opened the door for EVIL to grab a chair. There’s a swing and a miss before it’s superkicked right into him, as the Bucks looked for a Meltzer Driver on a chair… but SANADA makes the save as it’s reversed! LIJ hit the Bucks’ own move on them, just as Kenta Sato came to to make the count!
Nick broke up the cover just in time though, as the challengers got right back in with another Magic Killer, but there’s more superkicks as Matt hits his own Everything is EVIL! The Bucks capitalise that with the Meltzer Driver, and their first defence is in the books. A pretty fun match, although that ref bump probably wasn’t needed… ****
If I said “I miss Kevin Kelly on this call”, will we get shade on another podcast this week?
Ahead of intermission they announce some upcoming shows in the States: September 30th they’re back at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach for Fighting Spirit Unleashed (which is the show that’s causing Will Ospreay to miss the PROGRESS Wembley show); then there’s two Lion’s Gate-ish shows called Lion’s Break Project, on November 10 and 11 in Anaheim, California. I’m sure the other 49 States will get shows eventually…
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay
Apparently a tease of “what may be the G1 final”, according to JR, and we’ve got the new Okada theme here, slowed down somewhat with red balloons. He’s from from having “it” to cosplaying lazily as the clown from It.
Indeed JR, this match could be a main event in a lot of places. Especially on “road to…” shows!
We start with a lot of Tranquilo as Naito avoids the tie-ups, while Okada brings his own mind games. Hey, the crowd pops for Naito’s Tranquilo evasion, which of course has to be tied into JR calling back to the People’s Elbow… which is a fair comparison but only invites the derision from a certain side. Naito tags out, all blown up, as we get BUSHI and Will Ospreay, with the latter hitting his own fake-out dive as Naito tried to take a cheapshot… only to get intercepted as BUSHI returns to take a big boot. There’s some double-teaming that brings in Okada, but he can’t stem the tide, as he and Naito ended up outside while BUSHI rather nonchalantly choked on Ospreay in the corner.
BUSHI keeps up with some t-shirt choking, but referee Marty Asami refuses to count the pin because it was directly caused by rule-breaking. Naito’s tagged in, but he falls to an enziguiri from Ospreay… then a running elbow by Okada, who then pancaked BUSHI onto his own man! Okada looked to head up for an elbow drop, but instead he has to sail in with a crossbody for a two-count before Naito blocks a tombstone attempt.
Second time looked to be the charm, but Naito escaped out into a reverse DDT as he began another flurry of offence in search of the Destino… but it’s blocked as Okada looks for a tombstone, before eventually having to settle for a neckbreaker slam. Both men tagged out as Ospreay looked to regain the advantage, catching BUSHI with a hook kick, only to get caught in the corner with an overhead kick in the ropes as the masked man followed up with a missile dropkick.
Running knees and a swinging neckbreaker gets BUSHI a two-count, as does a running lungblower, but he telegraphs the MX and gets kicked out of the air by Ospreay as Naito and Okada return to spark a brief Parade of Moves. A standing Spanish Fly by Ospreay’s good for a near-fall, before the Robinson special and the Storm Breaker puts BUSHI away for the three. If this was churned out as the main event… people would have crapped all over it. As a match it was fine, but it lacked any sort of urgency – and had you not had the name value present here, it’d have been dogged even more. **¼
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi (c)
Full disclosure: we watched this match a day or so after it happened, when the news of Hiromu Takahashi’s injury was all-but-confirmed, This’ll be a tough watch…
Dragon Lee came out with the King of Indies championship, a title he won the prior night… while JR flat out said “I’ve read my copy and I’m done with Daryl for the night.” Fourth wall. These two have had plenty of high-profile matches between them, most recently during this year’s Best of the Super Juniors where Lee beat Hiromu in a match that looked like ending Hiromu’s run in the tournament early on. Of course, it did not…
After handing-off Daryl Jr. and his ever-disintegrating trophy to the commentary desk, Hiromu’s caught with an inside-out ‘rana from Dragon Lee at the bell, before the luchador sandwiched him into the guard rails ahead of a head-first tope suicida! They hit the ring as Dragon does the Naito outside-in dropkick, then firmly mocked him with the eye-wide-open and the Tranquilo pose, much to the annoyance of the crowd as the champion remained in the corner for a hanging dropkick for a near-fall. They calm it down a little with a chinlock, but Hiromu’s back out with a ‘rana… that Dragon Lee stands up out of. Lee rolls out of a second one as the champion mounted some offence, crashing into him with a low dropkick, taking him to the outside before a shotgun dropkick off the apron takes Dragon Lee into the guard rails. Hiromu’s up top for that scary back senton… which connects as he’s just about caught to take Lee down. So far the GIF-makers have had plenty of material!
The pair stay on the apron, as they worked up to what looked like a superplex to the floor… but Dragon Lee puts on the brakes before headbutting Hiromu and hitting a double stomp through Takahashi and to the floor. Sweet Jesus that looked nasty. Hiromu’s still got enough about him to powerbomb Dragon Lee off the apron as both men had to get back up to beat that 20-count, with Hiromu barely saving his title as Lee managed to get back in first!
Back inside, Dragon Lee’s attempt to confound Hiromu led to a wheelbarrow German suplex from the champion, sparking a series of German suplexes from both men. Some of them “restaurant quality”, which is an eatery I never want to frequent. Those suplexes got more and more head-droppy towards the end, before Dragon Lee decided to up the ante with a reverse ‘rana, as Hiromu finally put an end to that series with a lariat. They exchange overhand chops as they fought back to their feet, and believe me, those chops and palm strikes just didn’t let up as they worked up into slaps, then knees and superkicks, before Dragon Lee ran into an overhead belly-to-belly that sent him into the corner.
A Dynamite Plunger just chucks Dragon Lee down to the mat for a near-fall, but Lee’s back in with an attempt at the Desnucadora… Hiromu escapes, only to get hit with a standing Spanish Fly as the pair were turning up the intensity like it was Dave Meltzer breaking the star-rating scale. Another crack at Desnucadora is escaped as Hiromu gave Dragon Lee the D… and he holds on despite a powerbomb from Lee, who then lifted him up and…
— Italo Santana 🇧🇷 (@BulletClubItal) July 8, 2018
Yeah. That looked to be the spot that did the damage, with Hiromu skidding on the mat as his head landed. They kept on, as Dragon Lee gets Desnucadora at the third time for a near-fall, before a Last Ride powerbomb’s countered by Hiromu into a Destroyer for another two-count, as the Time Bomb put him away. That was a hell of a war, but one that came at an undeniable cost… there’ll be a time to talk about the “New Japan style” and how it looks to have led to another high profile injury, but without wanting to dampen things, given the matches these two have had in the past, it was only a matter of time before something gave. ****¼
IWGP United States Championship: Juice Robinson vs. Jay White (c)
Having won the United States title from Kenny Omega back in January, “Switchblade”’s defences have been pretty limited, with Hangman Page, David Finlay and Punishment Martinez being the three who’ve fallen to the New Zealander. Will we get our first ever American holder of the US title?
Going into the match, Juice Robinson had had his hand “broken” on the Kizuna Road tour by Jay White… although to be fair, Juice, whose attire here tonight was understated as ever, did punch a goddamned chair. They threw in a stipulation before the bell, which JR took very well. Having been protected during the prior tour as any attacks to the hand would have led to a DQ, Juice was threatened with disqualification here if he were to use his cast as a weapon.
White started by taking down Robinson as we had some back-and-forth ground and pound, before a Cactus clothesline from Juice took both men to the outside. A cannonball off the apron takes Juice towards the commentary crew, before he just throws Jay White into the guard railings by them… hell, all of the guard railings were at risk, but we’re back inside as Juice hits some Dusty punches, before ending with a chop as he had to stop himself from a sure DQ.
White responds by taking Juice to the floor with a back suplex, and we’re back into the guard rail spots as Robinson’s thrown through a barrier… prompting JR to moan about the whole tactic. Another guard rail throw actually produces SPARKS as the barrier dragged on the floor…
— Italo Santana 🇧🇷 (@BulletClubItal) July 8, 2018
They’re not done though, as they return to the ring with White standing on and stomping Juice’s broken hand as the New Zealander keeps his challenger grounded, with a new take on the Muta lock. From there, White (whose gear here reminded me a little of Chris Benoit’s tights from back in the day) traps Juice in the ropes for some chops… but he’s not in any rush to close out the match, as he proceeded to mock Juice with some Dusty punches of his own, only to get chopped for good measure. Back-and-forth chops ring across the arena, but Juice quickly slips in a spinebuster before he’s caught in a double armbar… and we’re back outside as White gets some revenge for those guard rails shots by suplexing Juice into the railing by the commentary team, which knocked Jim Ross out of his chair and apparently broke a rib in the process… all while Josh Barnett dropped a F-bomb and chased White into the ring, like an angrier Alexander Wolfe…
That sparked the arrival of plunder as White headed under the ring for chairs, swinging and missing with a shot before dumping Juice on the floor with a back suplex… all while JR and Josh were pissing and moaning about “rules not being enforced.” Have you not watched the product guys? Juice is back with a nasty spinebuster on the edge of the apron, before he’s forced to cling onto the top rope as he was in danger of being thrown off the apron with a German suplex, as he instead sent the pair of them careering to the floor with a side Russian legsweep. When they made it back into the ring, Juice catches White with a cannonball into the corner before taking it up top for a superplex, instead landing an avalanche brainbuster for a near-fall. A Pulp Friction attempt’s nearly countered into a crucifix as White looked to rain down some elbows, but Juice gets to the ropes… not that that was stopping the champion, who had to be pulled away.
Another Pulp Friction’s countered as Juice teased punching him with the left hand… he’s again stopped and nearly met with the Blade Runner. That’s escaped, and this time referee Red Shoes can see it coming as he adopted the brace position in the corner to avoid a ref bump… unfortunately missing a low blow from White in the process. There’s another teased ref bump, but this time it culminates in Juice using his cast to punch out White, before the Pulp Friction finally puts him away… but only for a near-fall!
There’s another Pulp Friction, but this time White goes for the arm before a Dragon suplex of sorts dumped Juice, who’s now swinging with that broken hand… and another half-and-half suplex led to another head drop on Robinson… who manages to counter a Blade Runner into a roll-up, and we’ve a new champion! My word, that was a title change I was not expecting after the earlier shenanigans, but that was a loud pop for Juice, who’s worked his way up from the bottom in New Japan and has now become one of the better babyfaces in the business today. ****½
IWGP Championship: Cody vs. Kenny Omega (c)
Kenny’s first defence after his ratings-shattering win at Dominion last month, was a rematch of sorts against Cody… after the pair’s less than engrossing match for ROH over WrestleMania weekend. In recent weeks the Bullet Club “civil war” story seems to have cooled a little… can it turn around?
Well, Cody’s managed to get rid of his bleach blonde hair and bring King Mabel’s throne out of mothballs, so there is that. We’ve a cagey start to proceedings, with the pair initially working the arms before Cody goes for the eyes. They keep it pretty simple from there, with shoulder blocks and chops as Omega tried to eke out an early advantage, only to get sent to the outside with a basement uppercut from Cody, who followed him there as one vocal fan was screaming at the former Stardust. Sorry.
Back in the ring, there’s chops from Kenny, but Cody ducks and follows up with a nice scoop slam, before he trapped the champion in a headlock for some punches. Kenny’s right back in with a low dropkick to the knee before the Kotaro Krusher took Cody down and to the outside… and you may be able to guess from the rhythmic clapping what was next… except Cody uses Brandi Rhodes as a human shield to delay the dive, as he ends up sidestepping a plancha instead.
Cody connects with a flying body press though, before he whipped Kenny into the guard railings that lined the entrance-way. Kenny returns the favour by throwing him onto the timekeeper’s table, before springboarding off of the railings with a double stomp that put Cody through the table. That’s not authentic New Japan – their tables don’t break that easily! There’s another table pulled out from under the ring, and Cody’s put on it… but he rolls off as Kenny’s forced to put on the brakes as he was looking for a springboard onto it. Returning to the ring, Cody catches Omega with almost a Product Recall-like clothesline/Flatliner combo for a near-fall, before a release suplex gave Omega a nasty landing and another pin he had to kick out of. A cravat keeps Omega down briefly, but he’s back with a Finlay roll attempt… which Cody escaped, before he ran into a ‘rana as we’re back outside… with Cody flipping over that table for the hell of it, as Omega crashed into him with a tope con giro.
Omega keeps up the charge with a missile dropkick and the Aoi Shoudou, before a V-Trigger was delayed with Cody getting taken into the ropes for the knee strike. Another V-trigger precedes a snap Dragon suplex, but Cody’s back in with one of his own as we’re into the boo/yay strikes, leading to a Figure Four from Cody after he’d taken Kenny down to the mat. Kenny tries to slap his way free of the hold, before rolling over and forcing Cody to grab the rope to force the break as the Figure Four was reversed.
We’re back outside, and dear God, there’s more plunder. Ladders! Chairs… and it’s that ladder that’s used first as Cody slammed Kenny onto it as the ladder was half in/half out of the ring. There’s a cheeky kick from Brandi Rhodes on the outside as Cody set up to suplex Kenny onto the ladder on the floor, succeeding as a front suplex dumped him across the steel. There’s more guard rail bumps as poor Kimihiko Ozaki (or “that guy”) has Kenny Omega and the guard rail fall onto his knee, while Cody sets up for a table bump…
Cody antagonises the Young Bucks first, giving Kenny time to get off the table as he climbs the ladder… and we’re risking either a superplex to the ring or through a table. Neither would be good… and in the end the landing is in the ring after Omega got the worse of it all. After getting a near-fall, Cody headed into the timekeeper’s area to grab the IWGP title belt, but he’s disarmed of it as Kenny lands a reverse ‘rana.
There’s a bit of hesitation after Kenny lost a One Winged Angel, and he ends up knocking the referee to the outside as Cody hits a Disaster Kick out of the corner… and no ref means no rules as Cody teases using the belt on Kenny. Instead, he lands Cross Rhodes for a near-fall as referee Red Shoes got back to his feet, before teasing the Din’s Fire vertebreaker… Omega escapes and lays in another V-Trigger, before they countered a One Winged Angel into another Din’s Fire attempt.
More V-Triggers trap Cody in the corner as a powerbomb gets Kenny a near-fall… and we’re back to the knees! Omega looked to go for a Praying Mantis Bomb, but instead there’s a backslide that rolled through into yet another V-Trigger for a near-fall as we crossed the thirty-minute mark. Another One-Winged Angel’s switched up as Kenny decides to powerbomb Cody through the table on the outside… except that one’s authentic and Cody just bounces off it. Oof.
— Italo Santana 🇧🇷 (@BulletClubItal) July 8, 2018
Kenny heads out and rolls Cody back in, but Brandi’s putting herself between the two as she’s sensing more imminent danger for her husband. There’s another V-Trigger effort, but Cody rushes in first with a lariat, as the two return to trading forearms and chops. More V-Triggers find their way through as Omega hits a Praying Mantis Bomb for a near-fall, before another V-Trigger makes Brandi recoil in horror… and we finally get the One Winged Angel. Nobody kicks out of that, and Cody is no exception as Kenny completed his first title defence! I enjoyed this one a lot more than their ROH outing three months or so earlier – yeah, it had its rough moments, with uncooperative tables, but this was a fine way to get the title reign underway. ****
After the match, Omega helps up Cody… could it be that there’ll be an olive branch offered in the midst of this civil war?
Omega’s post-match speech sort-of acknowledged the issues from his CEO show last week, saying that there’s a “queue of people looking to knock you down”. Goodbye, and good night… but that’s not all as some more of the Bullet Club appear on the stage to celebrate, with Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Haku coming out… but wait, is that a Bullet Club shirt Haku has on under his hoodie?
The Tongans attack Omega from behind, and drag the Golden Elite trio down to ringside… Tama posts Omega before pulling off his Bullet Club shirt to reveal a new one: FIRING SQUAD.
Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Haku triple-team Omega, with the Guerrillas hitting a powerbomb/neckbreaker combo to the champion as the Young Bucks took a beating. More of the Bullet Club head out to try and make the save, but Hangman Page gets summarily dispatched… as was Marty Scurll, despite using his umbrella on Loa. Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens try to make the peace, but they’re both dumped as the Tongan Trio have a chair and put it to use. It seems that the Bullet Club split we all feared has come to pass – but not in the way we were expecting. Cody limps back out… and gets handed a chair by Tama Tonga… but he turns on the Tongans and quickly is made to pay as Kenny Omega eats a Haku piledriver on a chair to end the night.
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) July 8, 2018
Fed up of being put on the back burner, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Haku have seceded to form the Firing Squad. You’ve got to think that Bad Luck Fale’ll be a part of that group, but in the meantime the splintering seems to ironically have healed the original splits between the “American” Bullet Club (oh, and Yujiro), as Kenny and Cody hugged it out to close a new chapter in that Civil War…
The G1 Special in San Francisco wasn’t a bad show, but it did end up feeling rather underwhelming… although that could well have been influenced by the news from after the show regarding Hiromu Takahashi. At time of writing, there still has been nothing confirmed in terms of what the injury is, or the severity of it. That being said, when wrestlers like Kenny Omega are tweeting about your career in the past tense, it perhaps isn’t the most encouraging of signs. Will this change New Japan’s “style”? Considering that the past two years has seen some rather high profile injuries, with Katsuyori Shibata being forced into retirement and Tomoaki Honma almost going the same way, this could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back… although it may well only end up prompting a slight toning down rather than a step-change that some have been calling for.
While the Cow Palace wasn’t sold out, the attendance was far from the worst case scenario that many had predicted – although that may mask an underlying issue here. In the US alone, there’s been a plethora of chances for fans to see New Japan and their wrestlers this year, whether it be the New Japan-branded shows, the ROH appearances, All In or whatever. It’s risking overexposure, especially when just about everything is part of the New Japan canon. That being said, the appearance of the Lion’s Gate-esque shows in November should help break the mould – with a rather different form of show being presented as opposed to the “supershows” we’ve had thus far with the G1 specials and Strong Style Evolved.
I’d be remiss to wrap this up without mentioning the other issue on hand: the commentary. It’s been a bugbear for all of these New Japan shows on AXS, but for me, the live pairing of Jim Ross and Josh Barnett simply does not work. Not having heard their AXS shows, I’m unable to comment on how they come across pre-produced, but the trend throughout the shows so far has been the same: at worst, they came across as disinterested and not being aware of the product. What exactly IS a Strong Style Evolved match? Why should I as a fan care that you’re reading copy about a character? Why should it be blindingly obvious that you’re reading off a pre-prepared list rather than at least trying to “fake it” from memory?
I’m not saying that they should ditch JR and Barnett and replace them with Kevin Kelly and another person, but if the live commentary is going to be full of snark and forced-script reading, then it may be time to add Kevin Kelly to the booth for these live shows; if only to shut up the constant barrage of folks who live tweet during the shows ready to pounce on the laundry list of slipped tongues and the like.